Saturday, November 28, 2015

Debris from SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Recovered Off Coast of Southwest England

The panel (pictured showing the letters 'O' and 'N' believed to be from Falcon) was initially spotted floating between the islands of Bryher and Tresco. Credit: PA

A large chunk of debris from a SpaceX rocket has been found floating off a remote British island, more than 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers) from where it exploded after takeoff. The barnacle-encrusted debris - which measures about 33 feet by 13 feet (10 meters by 4 meters) and is decorated with a U.S. flag - is believed to have come from an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket, designed by Elon Musk's private aerospace company.

Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency said in a statement that a piece of metal alloy was recovered with the help of a local boatman. The section of the spacecraft, was spotted on the surface between Bryher and Tresco. Local boatmen towed the section to Tresco where it has now been removed from the beach.

However many astronomers believe it is from a different mission due to the size and markings.

Joseph Thomas, from Tresco Boat Services, found the section of rocket while travelling around the north end of the island.

He said: "There were lots of gulls on the water and I thought initially it was a dead whale and the birds were feeding off it."

Debris from SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket recovered off coast of Southwest England. Credit: Tresco Island
Debris from SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket recovered off coast of Southwest England. Credit: Tresco Island

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said many experts believed, due to the size and markings which have now been revealed, it was from a different mission.

"All the geeks have been getting together and looking at fine details, and we're pretty sure it's a launch from September 2014 that successfully sent a cargo mission to the space station.

"It didn't look like an exploded rocket to me, it looked like a fairly normal piece of space junk when the lower stage of a rocket falls from a hundred miles up and hits the ocean. Large sections can remain in tact and it's really quite normal," he said.

SpaceX declined to comment on the discovery but several commenters on Reddit said it's unlikely the debris came from the Falcon 9 rocket that disintegrated on June 28 just minutes after liftoff. That rocket was carrying an unmanned Dragon cargo capsule with supplies destined for the International Space Station. It was pretty much shredded in the explosion, which SpaceX said was probably caused by a failed strut.

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